As the coronavirus quarantine continues, in-person events to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day have been canceled around the world. So we’ve assembled our picks for documentaries that will outrage and inspire you—all available for streaming at home.
And there’s no better time to get fired up about the fight to make sure that we have clean air, water, food, and living spaces. More and more scientists are pointing out the connections between exposure to toxic chemicals and the chronic diseases that put people at increased risk of dying from COVID-19. Exposure to toxic chemicals that can be found in our air, water, food, and everyday products has been linked to suppressed immune function as well as obesity, asthma, diabetes, and liver and kidney disease, among many other effects. Those undergoing treatment for cancer, another disease that can be caused by toxic chemicals, are also more vulnerable. As people around the world fight for their lives, we’re fighting to make sure everyone has access to safe products, clean water, and healthy food.
So let’s get inspired! Here are our ten picks for documentaries to make you laugh, cry and yell at the TV this Earth Day.
From the Story of Stuff team, The Story of Plastic makes its TV debut today at 2 ET/PT on Discovery Channel (U.S.) and is already available on the DiscoveryGo streaming service. This film examines the plastic pollution crisis – not only how it impacts the health of the planet but also the health of the humans who inhabit it. From production to use to disposal, plastic can expose us to toxic chemicals like phthalates and BPA.
Toxic Beauty asks “What if the next biggest chemical disaster is happening inside us?” With exclusive access to scientists, lawyers, advocates, regulators, politicians, a dynamic whistleblower, survivors and women who have lost their lives, it follows the class action lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson and the plaintiffs, women fighting for justice in a race against time with a deadly disease.
Before starting a family, Soozie Eastman, daughter of an industrial chemical distributor, embarks on a journey to find out the levels of toxins in her body and explores if there is anything she or anyone else can do to change them. Soozie has just learned that hundreds of synthetic toxins are now found in every baby born in America and the government and chemical corporations are doing little to protect citizens and consumers. With guidance from world-renowned physicians and environmental leaders, interviews with scientists and politicians, and stories of everyday Americans, Soozie uncovers how we got to be so overloaded with chemicals and if there is anything we can do to take control of our exposure. Features Mike Schade, the director of our Mind the Store campaign.
The Devil We Know tells the riveting story of how chemical companies have known that PFAS chemicals are toxic for decades—but made them anyway, polluting drinking water and our homes in the process. Aided by a chemical industry lawyer, a group of West Virginia residents sued DuPont for poisoning them. This documentary gathers interviews and damning legal deposition videos to tell the true story that was later featured in the film Dark Waters starring Mark Ruffalo.
Dirty Money – Point Comfort
In season 2, episode 6 of the Netflix documentary series Dirty Money, residents of a small Texas town were eager to welcome a massive plastics plant – until toxic chemicals began to take a toll on their community.
STINK! follows filmmaker Jon Whelan’s quest to find out what chemicals are hiding in a pair of foul-smelling pajamas he ordered for his daughter. Along the way, he meets Brandon Silk, a teenager with a life-threatening allergy to fragrance chemicals, and public health advocates, including late Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families founding director Andy Igrejas. He even meets Cal Dooley, top lobbyist for the American Chemistry Council. The New York Times called it “heartfelt…sensible and unnerving.”
Narrated by Sean Penn, The Human Experiment lifts the veil on the shocking reality that thousands of untested, unregulated chemicals are in the products we use every day, our homes, and inside each of us. Simultaneously, disease rates are rising: everything from cancer to infertility is appearing at levels doctors and researchers have never seen. This is the reality explored by the filmmakers as they follow the personal stories of people who believe their lives have been drastically and painfully affected by these chemicals. Taking viewers to the front lines as activists go head-to-head with the powerful and profitable chemical industry, the film makes the case that the biggest chemical threat facing humans today is not from an oil spill, or a nuclear meltdown, but could be right in your kitchen.
Chemical flame retardants are everywhere. Our furniture. Our homes. Our bodies. Yet they don’t seem to stop fires. They do, however, seem to make us sick. Toxic Hot Seat takes an in-depth look at a nexus of money, politics and power – and a courageous group of firefighters, mothers, journalists, scientists, politicians and activists as they fight to expose what they assert is a shadowy campaign of deception that has left a toxic legacy in America’s homes and bodies for nearly 40 years.
Living Downstream is based on the acclaimed book by ecologist and cancer survivor Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D. The film follows Sandra during one pivotal year as she travels across North America, working to break the silence about cancer and its environmental links. After a routine cancer screening, Sandra receives some worrying results and is thrust into a period of medical uncertainty. Thus, we begin two journeys with Sandra: her private struggles with cancer and her public quest to bring attention to the urgent human rights issue of cancer prevention. But Sandra is not the only one who is on a journey—the chemicals against which she is fighting are also on the move. We follow these invisible toxins as they migrate to some of the most beautiful places in North America. We see how these chemicals enter our bodies and how, once inside, scientists believe they may be working to cause cancer.
Skeptical of her parents’ decision to “re-side” their Long Island home with polyvinyl chloride (PVC), Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Judith Helfand set out to discover the truth behind the potentially toxic effects of the material, which is used in everything from automobiles to computers, medical equipment, and children’s toys. With a tender-hearted agenda and a piece of blue vinyl siding firmly in hand, Helfand and her co-director travel to the vinyl-manufacturing capital in Louisiana, enlist the help of a “green” builder in California, and journey as far as Venice, Italy — where 31 executives from a PVC-producing company await trial for manslaughter in a landmark conspiracy case.
Stream: Tubi (free)
A two-hour PBS special report on how chemical companies have collaborated to keep from American workers and the American public the full truth about the impact of chemicals on health and safety. The chemical revolution of the past 50 years has produced thousands of manmade chemicals that have not been tested for their effect on the public’s health and safety. The report is based on documents never before published and interviews with historians, scientists, and physicians who are exploring how chemicals affect the human body.
Stream: BillMoyers.com (free)